Sermon Notes & References

Priorities in Choosing Leaders

Titus 1:5-9

September 9, 2018

A.  Need for Leaders

      1.  A Parallel Passage (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

      2.  The Place of Deacons

      3.  The Leaders’ Titles 1

            a.   Elder (presbyter) 2

            b.   Bishop (episcopos, overseer) 3

            c.   Pastor (shepherd) 4

            d.   Elder-Ruled or Elder-Led? 5

B.  Priorities

      1.  of Situation

      2.  of Character

      3.  of Practice

      4.  of Giftedness 6

1 Titus 1:5-9. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Priorities in Choosing Leaders


A. Need for Leaders

    1. A Parallel Passage

        a. we have read as our text Paul’s instructions to pastor Titus regarding the choosing of elders

        b. however, there is also a similar passage which Paul wrote to pastor Timothy on the same subject – and probably at about the same time

        c. we should not consider the one, without having the other in mind, so let us also read it, from 1 Timothy 3:1-7

        d. 1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

            (A)    you will have noted that there are differences in these two sets of qualifications for leaders; some reasons suggested for this are

                 (1)    the differences in culture between the church in Crete, and that of Timothy (presumably Ephesus)

                 (2)    the stronger doctrinal position of the church in Ephesus where Paul had personally ministered for over two years

            (B)    but the ultimate reason is, of course, the discretion of the Holy Spirit in His inspiration of these two letters


    2. The Place of Deacons

        a. in writing to Timothy, Paul then continues to describe the qualifications of deacons, which are similar to those of an elder: are deacons leaders?

            (A)    the juxtaposition of these in first Timothy has led many to think so

            (B)    also forms of this word, translated ‘minister or serve’, were applied by Paul to himself, to Timothy and others

            (C)   so by attitude and by action it has been assumed that deacons have the responsibility in some manner of directing the material and/of spiritual affairs of the church

        b. but let us consider what this word ‘deacon’ meant, in the church and in society of that time and see if this should be the case

            (A)    we come across this term in Acts 6 where the apostles told the disciples it was not right they “should leave the word of God and serve (deacon) tables” but rather appoint others to do this so that they could give themselves to ‘ministry (deaconing) of the word.

            (B)    for this reason seven men were appointed to serve tables, and these waiters are commonly referred to as the first deacons – now note in passing that at least two of these later took on a more spiritual form of ministry, Stephen the martyr & Philip the evangelist

            (C)   what does the word ‘deacon’ mean itself?

                 (1)    it seems to have come from a word meaning ‘to throw up a dust”, and hence ‘to hasten

                 (2)    to which was added a prefix implying completing something

                 (3)    and one of its early meanings was that of ‘messenger’, one who left a trail of dust until he had delivered a message

            (D)   so the emphasis for a deacon was that of serving, not of leading, but like those mentioned, from this training ground of the deacons of today have arisen the leaders of tomorrow


    3. The Leaders’ Title

        a. sometimes I am addressed as “Reverend”, although I have never gone through the process and laying on of hands that goes with that title

            (A)    but usually I am silent: it’s the way of recognising God’s calling

            (B)    Spurgeon rejected it as a Romish practice (though he later was ‘ordained’ privately by his elders, since his publishers in the U.S. said he would not be recognised as a minister without this.)

            (C)   other notable baptists – George Truett, T.B. Maston – have resisted it for similar reasons

            (D)   but there are three NT terms commonly used as titles for church leaders, both then and today: elder, bishop, pastor; the last being simply the Old English word for shepherd which the Greek means

            (E)    such is made the case in 1 Peter 5, at which we shall look in a few moments, but also in Acts 20, when Paul called to Miletus, the Ephesian elders – either many from one church, or, more likely, from a number of distinct local churches – and exhorted them:

                 (1)    note these were the elders he called

                 (2)    and note the titles and duties that they are to practice

                 (3)    Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (bishops), to shepherd (to pastor) the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28)

        b. Elder

            (A)    you may have noticed that only in the qualification list in Titus is this term used, then switches to bishop, as in Timothy

            (B)    this is the most general term and includes – in my view – the other two titles

            (C)   it is a carryover from the OT, and in the books of Moses had specific reference to the 70 chosen from the elders of Israel, these having been given special manifestations of the glory of God (Exodus 24) and of the Holy Spirit (Numbers 11)

            (D)   it is term implying the respect due to them as stewards ot the household of God

        c. Bishop

            (A)    is the English rendering of the Greek word, episcopos (in moving from language to language an initial vowel is dropped, ‘p’ & ‘b’ are interchanged, and ‘sc’ takes a ‘sh’ sound – schedule)

            (B)    episcopos, meaning overseer, a person having his eye upon things

                 (1)    this title gives one responsibility of an elder, and a particular duty to some elders by God’s calling and gifting

                 (2)    it is well illustrated by God’s words to Ezekiel, chapter 33

                 (3)    2 Son of man, speak to the sons of your people, and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman; … 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’ 7 “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth, and give them warning from Me.

            (C)   in particular such leaders are needed for this role, since as Paul said to the Ephesian elders, ‘I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (Acts 20:29)

            (D)   the overseer’s responsibility is to watch for and warn of wolves

        d. Pastor

            (A)    earthly pastors are in reality only under-shepherds, for the real Head of the Church is Jesus Christ, the Lord

                 (1)    the good shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep (John 10)

                 (2)    the great Shepherd of the sheep, (Hebrews 13:20-21)

                 (3)    the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)

            (B)    the role of a shepherd is to lead, to protect, to care for, to feed the sheep – as in the natural, so in the supernatural

            (C)   you will find all of these responsibilities laid upon elders


    4. Elder-Ruled or Elder-Led?

        a. one controversy which has flared up in recent years in Baptist churches that have appointed elders is on this subject

            (A)    if you look at the constitution of Grace Community Church (John MacArthur’s church) you will find that it is very categorically elder-ruled, and the congregation has only a small voice in decisions

            (B)    others, have gone to the opposite extreme, so as not to admit to elders at all on the so-called congregational principal --

        b. the problem is man’s desire to exercise power, so keep Peter’s words in mind: “1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd (pastor) the flock of God among you, exercising oversight (being bishops) not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:1-4)


B. Priorities

    1. I am not going to expound at length on each of the qualifications that are to be found in these two lists, one in Titus, one in First Timothy. Rather I want you to be familiar with them, to think upon them, to follow them, so that

        a. you know how to pray for your church elders, of whatever title

        b. you have a basis to give them a word of correction or encouragement

        c. you in calling a pastor or appointing an elder, you have them as a basis to make a godly, spiritual evaluation


    2. of Situation

        a. the church of God is a family, and in one sense, the elder’s role is akin to that of a father watching over his children on God’s behalf

        b. so his own family relationships are significant – and hence a certain maturity (‘not a novice’) is required

            (A)    a husband of one wife has as its intent a faithfulness within the divine institution of marriage in a world which then, as now, was filled not only with polygamy, but other perverse relationships

            (B)    faithful children – in recent translations ‘believing children’ is more common, perhaps the result of the practice of christening (that is, of ‘Christianising’) children – but though both are admissible, I agree with John Gill that the AV is the better, since salvation is God’s work. The father can but raise a child with Christian training; it is up to the child as to whether he makes the right choice or not.

        c. the family situation is to be an example to the church


    3. of Character

        a. as you review these qualifications you find that they are specific

        b. I have had a person argue with me that these are only objectives towards which the elder is to strive: but Paul gave them to help Titus and Timothy choose men; you can only measure a man by what he is, not by what he may intend to be

        c. blameless means not only that his reputation is not subject to being accused, but that his character can withstand severe examination


    4. of Practice

        a. note in these requirements the specific practices that give a solid, objective measure of a person: the things he does, the attitude he shows, the motives that he reveals

        b. these are things that the church, the believers comprising a church, can see and know for themselves


    5. of Giftedness

        a. first of all, these leaders are a gift from God: “11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

        b. secondly the candidate to be an elder, needs to be grounded in the word of God – for an overseer, to have discernment to apply it – for a pastor, to proclaim it – in all cases to exercise that particular aptitude granted him by the work of the Holy Spirit

        c. illustration: young man in Spurgeon’s college whose voice could not be heard, didn’t have the gift of preaching – ‘he didn’t have the lungs


C. In days to come, as these decisions may be thrust upon you as a church, keep in mind these words which will guide you in making them.




© 2018 by Garth Hutchinson, Faith Fellowship Baptist Church of Aurora (Ontario): may be distributed or quoted freely, only let this be done to the glory “of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus ii.13). Except as noted otherwise, quotations are from the New American Standard version, used by permission. Various other English versions of the Holy Bible may be used in this sermon. Explanatory additions to the Bible text are shown in [braces]. Version identifiers are:


              AV          Authorized (King James) Version of 1769

              NAS        New American Standard version © 1960, 1995 The Lockman Foundation (usually the 1995 edition)

              NIV         New International Version © 1984 by the International Bible Society

              NKJV              New King James Version © 1979 Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers

       NRSV             New Revised Standard Version © 1989 Division of Christian Education of national Council of Churches of Christ

       JBP         The New Testament in Modern English, J. B. Phillips, Geoffrey Bles Ltd

       UBS        Greek text of the United Bible Societies; particularly that published in 1954 by The British and Foreign Bible Society

       WEY               The New Testament in Modern Speech © 1902, 1912 R. F. Weymouth


Some of the commentaries and resources used in the preparation of this message are identified as follow:


       Barnes –  Notes on the New Testament by Alfred E. Barnes

       Calvin –   Commentaries on the Bible, by Jean Calvin; translated into English & published in the Online Bible.

       EB   -      The Expositor’s Bible, edited by Sir William Robertson Nicoll, C.H., D.D., LL.D., 1903

       EBC             The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, © 1986 Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 49530, MI:

       EGT             The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Hodder & Stoughton; 1903

       Gill       Exposition of the Old Testament, Exposition of the New Testament, by John Gill, D.D.

       JFB  -      Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown; S. S. Scranton & Co. 1872

       Kerux –   The sermon & illustration data base compiled by Rev. David Holwick at the web-site,

       RWP             Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, by Dr. A. T. Robertson